Suicide First Aid
The first question that you should ask yourself is "What do I do when I think someone may need help?" The answer is simply ASK!
Think of ASK like CPR. You don’t have to be a doctor to know CPR to save a life, you just have to keep the heart attack victim alive until the ambulance arrives. The same goes for ASK. Anyone with basic training can use it to save a life.
ASK: Do not be afraid of using the word “suicide.” Being direct, while being kind, in asking the question “Are you thinking about suicide?” will not put the idea into the person’s mind. In the midst of a crisis of youth suicides in his state, a high school guidance counselor said “When I have a potentially-suicidal kid in my office, I ask directly ‘Are we talking about suicide?’ I can virtually see the stress rise from the kid’s shoulders, like a dark cloud. It doesn’t give the young person the idea – it opens their heart.”
STAY WITH: Never leave a person who is at risk of taking his or her own life alone. The only exception would be if you are in danger, if perhaps there is a loaded firearm present. Remember that your job is not to “heal” the person of these negative feelings. It’s to keep them safe until a trained professional, a social worker, doctor or psychiatrist perhaps, can intervene.
- Keep the person engaged with questions and comments that show you care and can empathize.
- Keep eye contact.
- Once you have confirmed that suicide is indeed a consideration, get more details.
- Ask questions like, “Have you talked to anyone else about this?”
- “Do you know how you’re going to do it?
- "Do you have a time planned?”
- “Have you thought about what you’re going to write in your ‘Good-Bye’ notes? "Have you actually written any of them?”
- Above all, show your sympathy. “We’ve all been where you are – we all go through periods of sadness.”
- Ask leading questions like “I sense that what you really want to do is end your pain, and you think that suicide is the only way. Am I right?”
- Finally, “If there is another way, would you give us enough time to find help if I stay with you?”
KONNECT: Wherever you are, there are resources available to help you. If the crisis is so imminent that you feel immediately threatened, such as the gun is loaded and at hand for instance, you can always call 911. The response may not be as sympathetic as you might wish, but if the threat is that immediate and law enforcement steps in, at least the person is still alive. The nearest Emergency Room is an alternative where you can find psychiatric help and counseling available.
- The Maryland Youth Crisis Hotline is 1-800-422-0009
- There are first responders at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) and 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
- A complete list can be found on our "I Need Help / Who Can Help Me" tab, or by selecting the "Crisis Response Centers" yellow arrow above.
Ask if there is anyone else to whom the person would feel comfortable talking to. A trusted member of your family, a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, a teacher, or even your pastor.
WHAT NOT TO DO: This is a time for quiet listening, not blaming, not feeling guilty. Never say or suggest the following:
- “Think of all the people you’ll hurt – your friends, your family.”
- “Don’t be ridiculous. You’re not going to kill yourself.”
- “These are the best years of your life – you have lots to live for.”
- “In 20 years you’ll forget about all of this.”
- “Get a grip, man up, get this out of your system.”